“We write what we know, and this is what we do know,” says Ana Castillo — novelist, essayist, poet, teacher, truth-teller, and, as she has come to be known, one of the first generation of highly visible Chicana writers.
“They describe us as ‘Chicana writers, in search of their identities.’ We’re not looking for identities — we have this identity,” adds Castillo during our conversation at an independent bookstore in Chicago, her hometown and a stop on her author tour to promote her newest novel, Give it To Me (2014, The Feminist Press) (http://www.anacastillo.com/content/).
Give It to Me is Castillo’s sixth novel, written in only two months, a testament to her mastery and a successful journey from her first novel that she spent “so many years learning how to write.” In college, Castillo’s plan had been to teach art in high school, but she veered from that more conventional path to become a self-taught poet and then a self-taught everything else literary, now with two New York Times Notable Books of the Year to her credit. Today, she is called one of the most powerful voices in contemporary Chicana literature.
When Castillo moved to California after college in the 1970s, the era of Cesar Chavez, she encountered “Chicana,” which was “a big word” then used in academia. “Coming from Chicago, I saw myself as Mexican-American. But I was born here,” she adds. By the time Castillo returned to Chicago, she proudly brought the Chicana label with her.
“It bothers me that the various powers that be still see me as a label and decide whether that is the flavor they want or don’t want,” Castillo says. But after numerous volumes of fiction, poetry, and essays, she clearly isn’t hampered by a label.
I ask the impossible: love me forever.
Love me when all desire is gone.
Love me with the single mindedness of a monk.
When the world in its entirety,
and all that you hold sacred advise you
against it: love me still more.
When rage fills you and has no name: love me.
When each step from your door to our job tires you–
love me; and from job to home again, love me, love me.
Love me when you’re bored–
when every woman you see is more beautiful than the last,
or more pathetic, love me as you always have:
not as admirer or judge, but with
the compassion you save for yourself
in your solitude.
Love me as you relish your loneliness,
the anticipation of your death,
mysteries of the flesh, as it tears and mends.
Love me as your most treasured childhood memory–
and if there is none to recall–
imagine one, place me there with you.
Love me withered as you loved me new.
Love me as if I were forever–
and I, will make the impossible
a simple act,
by loving you, loving you as I do
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